There is one thing I guarantee will boost your spirits in the doldrums of winter: cleaning. And no, I don’t mean sweeping and mopping — I mean… purging cleaning.
Hear me out.
When you have kids, keeping your home organized and manageable is a constant, never-ending battle — even for the strictest minimalist. Household clutter can quickly mushroom out of control— and even lead to feelings of shame or inadequacy. I often become so overwhelmed with the daily mess in my house that I have to leave and take a walk because I can’t deal with it. This feeling of overwhelm is completely normal; research shows that when our physical space is in disarray, it can make us feel anxious, overstimulated and unfocused.
Cleaning is one thing that can give you back a feeling of control, along with some distinct mental benefits and a burst of good feels: power, control, clarity, you name it. Cleaning really is therapeutic, especially if you are dealing with other life-problems that are out of your control.
Back in late December, I came down with COVID and didn’t feel like doing much other than binge-watching Netflix. I stumbled across The Home Edit and Marie Kondo’s newest series, Sparking Joy.
I‘ve always appreciated her loving, compassionate and non-judgemental approach toward peoples’ spaces and possessions and decided to apply it to my own house. Over the past month, I have slowly cleaned out my entire house (!!) – and I can’t help but walk around and admire my work (wine in hand, LOL). I seriously can’t believe I did it.
It’s the greatest feeling to conquer your home!
With that said, here is a simple recipe that works for cleaning out nearly any space in your home.
Keep in mind that kids can actually help with the process too! In fact, when your kids pitch in, they gain ownership of the project, which helps them feel empowered to keep it tidy in the future. See also: Involving Kids in The Upkeep and Toy Organization for Dummies
1. Pick a Space
If you’re just starting out, pick something small.
You could also tackle something bigger, like a whole closet or bathroom, but don’t overcommit: you can stick to one drawer in the bathroom, your medicines, your jewelry, makeup… you could just do pants. Or shoes. It doesn’t matter, just start somewhere.
2. Remove EVERYTHING
If you are cleaning out a defined space, like a bedroom closet, pantry or dresser, I recommend you take everything out. This is where kids can help – they love dumping stuff out! You can finally leverage the power of their indiscriminate destruction to your advantage. 💪🏼
Right now, you’re simply dumping all your stuff from your space onto a bed, a table, the floor…. wherever. If you have a folding table, it helps greatly to have the extra space.
3. Deep Clean the Thing
Now it’s time to make love to your empty closet/pantry/cabinet. It’s probably full of dust, crumbs, slime and miscellaneous coins. Grab that cleaning spray and a sponge – let’s make it spotless.
4. Admire Your Clean Space
Take a step back and admire your new, clean slate. Ahhhh, doesn’t it feel good? It looks amazing. Good for you, you’re doing it!
Here’s where you group like items together.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I found no fewer than 4 bottles of rubbing alcohol during my bed/bath clean-out: one in my bedroom closet, two in the bathroom cabinets, and one in the medicine cabinet. No, I don’t have a rubbing alcohol fetish. But because I didn’t have an established home for it, I just kept buying more whenever I couldn’t immediately find some…
All this is to say, try to gather all related items to the thing you’re cleaning out to check for duplicates, even if you’re organizing one small space at a time.
This problem crops up frequently during a pantry/fridge clean-out…
Yes, I had four packages of the SAME kind of cheese hiding in various drawers and shelves – 3 of which were already open – ahhhhh!!!
Now I have a sliced cheese bin so I can clearly see my inventory and don’t overbuy. More on that later…
Next, decide what gets to stay in this particular space – and what needs to go elsewhere.
To keep it simple, we are separating our stuff into KEEP and GO (for the stuff that is obviously trash, just chuck it in a trash bag). For non-trash (donations, things that belong elsewhere, etc.), put it all in a box or an empty laundry basket and remove it from your space (ahhh, isn’t that better?).
The important part right now is not to figure out the ultimate destiny of every little thing (that’s another job altogether, we’ll save that mental heavy-lifting for another day)…. You’re just deciding what gets to stay in this particular space.
The Case of the Maybes
Sometimes… you’re just not sure about something. Maybe there’s a sweater you think needs to go, but you’re not ready to part with it. Maybe you have some yoga pants you’re mad at… or that pair of jeans that don’t fit anymore (but could if you just lose a few lbs! HA).
I like to have a “maybe” pile and keep my maybe items in their own box. I put them away, out of sight, and if several months have gone by (or even a year!) and I haven’t needed any of it, then I know… it’s really time for them to go.
7. Break Down the Categories
Don’t be afraid to take your categories a step further.
Take medicines, for instance: instead of having all meds together, you might group pain relievers together, cold and allergy meds, first aid, etc. The more you can break it down, the easier it will be to locate things later. This is the key to keeping things tidy going forward.
8. Put it Back with Intention
Now that you have organized groups of meaningful belongings, you can get a feel for what kind of bins you’ll need to contain your stuff. Remember: everything needs a home.
Don’t skimp on this! I have skipped this step in the past by trying to stack things up on shelves – and I’m telling you it just doesn’t work very well.
Big picture: our team loves clear plastic bins, which is also the preferred method of The Home Edit crew. Clear bins let you SEE 👀 what’s inside, eliminating the guesswork when trying to find your stuff later.
Here’s how it looks ~
- Bedroom Closet:
- In the kitchen:
- Cleaning closet:
Amazing, right? Here’s my fridge IRL:
My little one now knows exactly where the sliced cheese bin is in the fridge so she can make her own sandwich 😃.
When it comes to containers, we generally recommend either the mDesign brand on Amazon or The Home Edit Collection at WalMart. Of course, there’s also the grand poobah, The Container Store, but I find many of their basic selections to be overpriced. No need to overpay for acrylic boxes, right?
mDesign Basic Acrylic Bins
The Home Edit Collection at WalMart has sets of items for specific spaces. For example, the Pantry Set contains 2 “Everything Large” bins, 2 large insert bins, and a 3-tier canned goods riser:
See all of their collections here.
No idea what you need? Here’s a great general set to get started with. This large 25 pc set is multi-functional and will work anywhere in your home.
Check out ALL of our favorite specialty storage bins and containers for your entire home.
Good luck cleaning out your homes, friends! You can do it! I hope you get the same satisfaction I did. I swear, it’s the best thing I’ve done in a really long time.
Drop us a comment and tell us how you did. Cheers!